The end of prohibition on beer: A reason to celebrate

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Chief among the legacies of Prohibition is the alcohol regulatory system that manages the three tiers of brewers, distributors and retailers. This three-tier system is an efficient balance of control between the state and federal levels, and among the industry tiers of production, distribution and retail sale. Ultimately, what the three-tier system means for the consumer is a healthy, orderly and lawful marketplace. Brewers and beer importers support the three-tier system.

Another achievement we recognize is that today’s beer industry has grown to a major economic force in the United States. Our Beer Serves America study, published in partnership with the National Beer Wholesalers Association, found that beer contributes $246 billion to the economy, puts more than two million Americans to work directly and indirectly, and pays $49 billion in tax revenue to federal, state and local government.

In fact, our study found that more than 40 percent of what consumers pay for a beer goes toward some kind of taxes, making taxes the most expensive ingredient in beer today. Our consumers, those middle class Americans who enjoy a beer at the end of hard day, pay more than their fair share of taxes already, as these numbers show.

Brewers and importers – the top tier of the three-tier system – play the critical role as the engine driving this economic train. Every one brewery worker supports another 45 workers in a broad swath of employment—on barley farms, in can- and bottle-manufacturing plants, warehouses, grocery stores, stadiums and restaurants.

In our communities, there is no more important legacy of the repeal of Prohibition than the commitment to responsibility made by brewers and beer importers. Members of the Beer Institute adhere to a rigorous Advertising and Marketing Code that is a model of responsibility for other industries. And our member companies support more than 130 community-based initiatives to work with law enforcement, retailers and educators on efforts to reduce alcohol misuse.

Finally, in 2012 we had more than 2,700 permitted brewers licensed by the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau --- more than at any time. Brewers both large and small offer consumers a deep selection of brands, styles, flavors and price options. Whether it’s a high-end craft, an import or a classic premium light lager, there’s a beer for every occasion – from special dinners, to a night on the town with friends, to tailgating, picnics and backyard BBQs.

So today, if you are meeting friends for an after-work beer, I ask you to think about the millions of Americans who worked to bring you that beer, from farmers to factory workers, from brewery hands to bartenders. Think about the industry-backed responsibility programs at work in your community, and think about the staggering level of tax revenue beer drinkers and the industry already pay.

And let’s toast 80 years since Prohibition with a cold beer. 

McClain is president of the Beer Institute.